Snow and chickens: Leroy Twarogowski’s art in retrospect

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Collegian | Ivy Secrest

Leroy Twarogowski and Marie Coté Twarogowski in Meno Home Studios at Leroy Twarogowski’s “In Retrospect” exhibition Sept. 18.

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

Looking around Meno Home Studios, it is evident a lifetime of artistic development went into the curation of Leroy Twarogowski’s “In Retrospect” exhibition. 

With a focus on family, the natural world and Twarogowski’s own emotional journey through a lifetime of life-changing events, his work is as varied and deep as his experiences. 

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A former Colorado State University professor, 85-year-old Twarogowski held an exhibition of his work from 1955-2022. From items created back when Twarogowski was 18 years old to his newest works from this past year, the exhibition showed his diverse and vast journey as an artist. 

“I gave away so much of my good work to my kids that I decided I wanted it back,” Twarogowski joked. 

Gesturing at his work, he explained how he had been inspired by a myriad of things in his life. From the way the snow gathers on the earth to his son’s pet chickens and larger global events, he incorporated the story of his life into the pieces he gathered. 

When it came to larger issues, Twarogowski’s reaction is often artistic. He first explained this with a piece he did in reaction to the assassinations of former President John F. Kennedy, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and former United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. 

“I was told that what this allows me to do is deal with it and not stuff it because all I have to do is look at it. And I’m reminded (of) some of these terrible things but in a format of something really beautiful.” –Leroy Twarogowski, artist and former CSU professor

“Everybody, of course, thought it was terrible, and you couldn’t believe it,” Twarogowski said. “So I thought of creating a figure that looks like it’s capable of just killing people.” 

Twarogowski’s artistic reactions to modern conflict have not faded since the assassinations. More recently, he created a “not-so-peaceful peace dove” in honor of the war in Ukraine and the struggle of the Ukrainian people as well as a humorous response to U.S.-Mexico border tensions. 

Twarogowski said everyone kept telling him they didn’t want “aliens as neighbors” and that this piece was him poking fun at the idea of neighbors being aliens when they are, in fact, people. 

“This is a portrait of an alien; he’s my friend — we’re great neighbors,” Twarogowski said. “We’re best pals.” 

Twarogowski’s expression extends well into his personal life. A man deeply focused on his family, he doesn’t struggle to care but to say he cares in words. Instead, he draws his sorrows, loves, hopes and fears into portraits of his sons and other family members. 

He explained two pencil pieces of a young woman, his sister Sandy who passed away too soon, stemmed from this particular kind of emotional expression — so did the portraits of his son, Mikhail Twarogowski, holding chickens or even his father fishing. 

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“In many cases with family, it will always be with me,” Leroy Twarogowski said. “I couldn’t express it with words; I could not express how I felt about Sandy dying. … I was told that what this allows me to do is deal with it and not stuff it because all I have to do is look at it. And I’m reminded (of) some of these terrible things but in a format of something really beautiful.”

Inspired to pursue art by his third grade teacher, Twarogowski went into teaching himself, sharing his passion for drawing with CSU students. And much like a professor of the arts, for every word he could not share about his feelings, he had a word for his art.

He explained in great detail the thought, effort and technique that went into each piece. This passion of his doesn’t just settle on his shoulders but is shared by his entire family. His wife and son are also artists in their own rights. 

“I kind of grew up in the CSU art department,” Mikhail Twarogowski said. “I didn’t really know what else to do other than go into the arts in some way.” 

A part of CSU’s history and a current contributing member of the art world, Leroy Twarogowski brought in curious onlookers and many caring family members and friends to his exhibition. 

Twarogowski’s impact is obvious when looking at the exhibition. From the diverse collection of works to his family’s efforts to celebrate him and his accomplishments, it is clear Twarogowski left marks on more than just pieces of paper. 

Reach Ivy Secrest at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.